Tag Archives: joy

To the Chosen Lady

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Ever have one of those brief (well brief for me) parenting moments when you think, “I got this whole parenting thing,” just to end up with bath water all over the kitchen floor, a half cooked breakfast and all your confidence vaporized before the clock even hits 8 a.m. That was my morning when I thought I’d save some time and bring Trevor’s little bathtub out to the kitchen so he could wash up while I cooked breakfast. Save time, right? Yeah, not so much, at least at the end of that bad idea the floor got mopped which was not on the to do list but I’m sure needed to happen.

I think one of my biggest challenges with motherhood (I’ve only reached the toddler stage) is how quickly little things can get out of control. Life can often feel like a huge mess (literally). A large portion of my day frequently revolves around wiping up spills and saying, “don’t touch that, throw that, hit that, break that…” There is no turning around for a second or, yup, one more mess to clean up or one more thing gets broken.

I stumbled across an encouraging gem recently. I’ve read it before, but this time on one of those rare mornings when I actually managed to get up before my little guy and have a bit of a quiet time I read through the book of 2nd John and it resonated with my tired soul. I read it, then read it again, then read it one more time (not too hard as it is the second shortest book of the Bible with just 303 words). I can’t remember ever hearing a sermon preached on 2nd John but in its short, simple, loving tone it is a beautiful letter of encouragement written to a mother.

I love that God tucked this treasure into the New Testament knowing that this letter of staying faithful and walking in truth and love was a message that future mothers would also need to hear. We don’t have the original envelope (or scroll) of the letter so there are no proper names used. John refers to himself simply as “The elder” and addresses his recipients as “the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth.” Some scholars say this woman hosted a church in her home, which is very likely. John encourages her to continue to “love one another,” “walk in obedience” and he warns her of deceivers. “Watch out,” he says, “that you do not lose what we have worked for.” It is clear that John saw this special lady as a partner in ministry. He says he has more to say but prefers to talk face to face, “so that our joy maybe complete.”

As a mom in the midst of the constant toddler training days, the sentence that struck me most in this short letter was when John wrote, “it has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth.” Were these her spiritual children or her physical children? I don’t know, but this lady was an influencer and she influenced her children for good. That is what I long for—to influence for good.

Interestingly enough she didn’t have perfect results, John says, “some of your children.” That honesty hit me as well because I long for perfect; I want the best for my child. I want a guarantee that if I do this, he will turn out this way. I often have the unreal expectation that my child needs to be perfect in order for me to be doing a good job, and when that perfection isn’t there (a daily, ok hourly, occurrence) I often feel that I am failing in my role as a mother. I remember when my son was born and he had some baby acne on his face. Immediately I thought, “oh no, already his skin isn’t that perfect newborn baby skin,” and, as his caregiver, I felt that it was somehow my fault even though he was barely a few hours old.

But, perfection is not the goal. Let me just say that again, perfection is not the goal! Not an easy truth to believe in this Photoshop/picture perfect society. Perfection will never happen this side of heaven. There is no formula, no parenting method, and no amount of programs that will guarantee you a perfect child. Instead, we have to walk in the truth like 2nd John says; model grace, love and mercy and leave the rest in God’s hands.

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Mayonnaise Jar of Joy

I struggle with the stillness, the slowness, the days without appointments and weeks without a clear plan; but that is the season now. I struggle, and yet when I finally make peace with the situation I find that sometimes these “slow times” are the richest.

Just as the seasons in the US and PNG are opposite, (yes, it’s super hot here at the moment) the busy times seem opposite as well. I’m used to December being packed with activity, and here in PNG the tendency (at least in the city) is for everything to close up allowing those who are able to travel back to their villages during the holidays. Plane ticket prices are high, vacation time gets used, even kid’s programs and Sunday schools often stop for a good two months. By February, things slowly start to pick back up.

So that is where I have found myself these last few months, in that lull. We had a delightful close up program with the Widows Encouraging Widows Fellowship in November and are set to reconvene at the end of this month. We had a quiet Christmas and an even quieter New Year (I’m a tired mom and went to bed at 11pm because it just is not worth losing that extra hour of sleep when every hour is beyond precious).

This month has had some good family time, but sometimes I find myself getting a touch of cabin fever. Partly, it is the reality of the toddler stage when going out is hard (he might miss that all important nap) but staying in is hard too (he is climbing the furniture again and “wheels on the bus” is starting to get permanently cemented in my brain). I guess that is why I cling to the idea of a full schedule. Survive today, tomorrow we are going out. I’m just done.

I’m done just surviving till bedtime. My resolution for 2018 is finding joy in the small moments—because small moments are big part of life right now: ice cream cones, paper airplanes, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

I’m learning that joy really is a choice and it often takes effort. I’ve started writing down a memory or “joy” from the day and sticking it in a jar (currently an empty mayonnaise jar that I hope to get around to painting before 2019). What I’ve found is that stopping through out the day to savor those little joys calms me when I start to feel overwhelmed. It reminds me to laugh, and so far (even on the slow days) I’ve written down at least two “joys” because I can never seem to pick just one.

During these quieter days I’ve been going through photos getting a slideshow together to help celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of the Widows Encouraging Widows Fellowship. I have been bombarded by simply joys. I love that the ladies bring their kids and, even sometimes grandkids, to the monthly fellowship. Right outside the door there is always a pile of flip-flops and sandals of every sizes. That sight never fails to bring a smile to my heart. Yes, these ladies and their children often have difficult lives, but they keep on living. We eat together; laugh together, sing together.

Last month we were able to attend the graduation of one of our widow’s daughters (a young, single mom) who wanted to do more with her life. We were able to partially sponsor her school fees at a local vocational college, and her family chipped in the rest. The hope and joy on her face that graduation day is one of those moments that stays with you. If it wasn’t for these quieter days I guess I wouldn’t have the chance to truly reflect on those moments and just how beautiful they are.

It isn’t an easy life. At times hearing so many hard stories, wishing you could do more, feeling tied down during this toddler stage is just hard, but those little moments matter. Anytime you enter into someone else’s life it can get messy, but it matters. We are one body, here for each other. It is often a slow process, but I’m learning to hang in there because there is so much joy woven into each day.

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Enjoying some simple joys with Trevor’s cousins visiting from the village

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The Church on the Mountain

20171203_105237There was jumping, dancing and singing—the kind of singing that springs from the joy of the soul. People waved branches and pieces of cloth. The atmosphere was infused with a feeling of genuine joy. A smile crept across my face as I thought; “I’ve never seen an offering with so much feeling take place in an American church.”

It was thanksgiving Sunday, a Sunday to come and thank God for His faithfulness over the past year; a time when people brought special offerings, sang songs in their local languages, performed cultural dances and just spent time celebrating. The last group offering seemed to peak with a new level of joy. It touched me so much because this was the group who, as a congregation, had lost the most. The church we attend is made up of three separate fellowships that meet individually on a weekly basis but come together once a month and celebrate communion as one body.

The last group to give their thanksgiving offering was from the church on the mountain. The church that had their building bulldozed to the ground. I happened to be there the day it happened. A road was coming through. Most people in the area were given eviction notices. We had dropped by the pastor’s house on some quick errand, and he was heading up to the church because some people who had been given eviction notices had moved their things to the church property.

There was a feeling of chaos and helplessness on the mountain as people stripped tin sheets off the roofs of their buildings and threw them into the back of pickup trucks. I met the pastor’s wife from the church at the bottom of the mountain. Their church, even though it was not in the direct path of the road had been told to move.

Then the shock—bulldozers drove up and started bulldozing the trees around the mountain church as well. Even though no eviction notice had been given and the church was well off the path of the road, the mountain church somehow also fell in line for destruction.

Despite documents being shown by the church leadership that talks had been happening between the University (who were said to own the land) and the church, the documents and pleas were ignored. There was no official land title (something very difficult to obtain in PNG). No verbal or written evacuation notice had been given; but, while many congregation members watched helplessly, the building was demolished.

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We did not stay to watch. It hurt too much. I thought of the first church service I ever attended in PNG at this very church. The children welcomed us with flowers sprinkled along the walkway and colorful leis. I thought of the little boy Bradley that we took care of for nine months and how he loved climbing those beautiful trees surrounding the church building. I thought of one of the widows that we worked with and how her husband had been the one who did all the masonry work on the building.

The next Sunday, after the building was destroyed, we met in the hot sun with just umbrellas for protection. A few reporters from one of the local papers stopped by to take some photos of the rubble.

That Sunday now seems like ages ago. The road is nearly finished now. Both the church at the bottom of the mountain and the church at the top of the mountain still meet under makeshift tarps and temporary structures. My husband preached there yesterday to the faithful congregation that a week ago sang and praised God with their whole bodies as they gave their thanksgiving offering.

What a year they have had. It is humbling to see that in spite of unforeseen circumstances, injustice, and pain they still meet. This is their fellowship. They meet with the sun beating down on the wind blown tarps. They meet in the rain (like yesterday) pulling the wooden benches back out of line of the drips. They meet with a generator buzzing in the background to provide power for the sound system.20171203_103543

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They meet with gladness among the rubble and it is a beautiful testimony—thanksgiving and genuine joy in spite of hardship.

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Just Enjoy Your Breakfast

It was one of those mornings. I hadn’t even made it through breakfast, and I already felt overwhelmed. January was full of birthdays to celebrate, meetings to attend, and ministry opportunities. February—well, February stared back at me blankly. Apart from counting the days until my parents’ and mother-in-law’s arrival, (we’re ecstatic to see everyone) the calendar is painfully empty. It’s a waiting game. When will he come? A week from today? Tonight? Two weeks? No telling. We wait.

With 90 degree weather, water rationing, and frequent power blackouts, I’d rather this baby come sooner then later. I feel huge. It’s hard to sleep. The neighbors seem to think that playing their music at night club volumes (at all hours of the day and night) is somehow OK.

“I just don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next month” I told my husband.

“Don’t think about it so much,” he told me. “Just enjoy breakfast.”

Simple advice, but so true. I slowly stopped feeling so sorry for myself and just enjoyed my pancakes. The day ended up being a pleasant one, and on Sunday morning, without any warning, our noisy neighbors moved out. A cool wind blew in while we were at church sending tiny white flowers sailing through the open windows. That soothing wind was followed by a sweet, gentle rain.

It’s a moment by moment kind of life, and yet I’m always so tempted to live in the future worrying about problems that may or may not even come to pass. So many times tomorrow ends up just taking care of itself. That’s not to say don’t plan for the future or set goals, but just a reminder not to let tomorrow’s potential problems steal the joy from today.

Enjoy your breakfast. Enjoy those little memories that make life what it is. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray for their daily bread. I tend to get so focused on the monthly needs at times that I miss that simple but beautiful promise of daily bread. There are times that we don’t have the money we “need” for groceries for the month, but we have what we need to buy lunch. And, somehow every time when tomorrow does arrive those needs are taken care of.

It’s a fascinating process learning to live not driven by worry but by thankfulness. I have such a long way to go when it comes to learning to live this way, but it does lift a huge burden when you really can let go of the worry and just be thankful for the pancakes in front of you. Life has its seasons. Enjoy each one without letting tomorrow’s potential worries keep you from the simple joys of today.

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Stealing my Joy

As I was hand-washing two large sinks full of laundry the neighbor started burning her trash sending a cloud of smoke billowing into our yard. “Oh joy,” I thought as I rung out a towel. “All this work washing the clothes, and they’re just going to end up smelling like smoke.”

But my mind wasn’t really on the laundry or even on the neighbor’s smoke. My thoughts swirled around a lady I’d never met who thought that my husband should be with her not with me. She took pictures off my facebook page, posted them on her own page and she and her friends proceeded to slam us, our marriage, and even our ministry.

To be honest my heart hurts for her. This particular lady says she wants to be a missionary, but has not yet been able to go. She seems to want what other people have, a happy marriage and an active ministry. Because that hasn’t happened yet in her life, she has allowed bitterness and jealousy seem to take hold of her stealing her joy, so in turn she wants to steal other people’s joy.

I share this story not to put her in a negative light. She is clearly a hurting individual. We have forgiven her written attacks and have prayed that God will bring people into her life to help her work through the pain that she is obviously going through. I share this story as a reminder that it’s so easy to let someone steal your joy. There are times that I have let her steal mine. In frustration over what she has said against my husband, I let her disturb my peace. At the end of the day, the truth is still the truth. God sees my attitude just as he sees hers. That’s what I’m responsible for, my attitude, not hers or anyone else’s.

This doesn’t mean that people should be allowed to get away with hurting others, it means that God is a defender. He is a God of justice. He sees people’s hearts, motives and actions; and He acts.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.” –Psalms 18:25-27

Having God as our defender doesn’t mean that Christians must be passive and let people stomp all over their lives. We can actively face our problems, but knowing that God is fighting for us our focus needs to remain on maintaining our own personal peace remembering that ultimately God is fighting for us. This week a wise friend of mine told me, “when people throw bricks at you to bring you down, collect those bricks and use them to build a firm foundation for yourself.”

Don’t let someone steal your joy. At times I’m tempted to take pictures down from facebook or just delete my account so that I don’t have to see the hateful posts that a small minority of people write, but doing that would be allowing someone to steal my joy. Facebook helps me stay connected to my family and friends even though I’m oceans away from so many people that I cherish. I love seeing my friends’ children growing up. I love hearing about graduations, birthdays, and even the little moments of life. As far as photos go, I love photography. Pictures have a way of bringing a smile to my face and pulling happy memories to mind. I’m not going to let someone I never met take that joy from me.

The smoke cleared just as I finished the last of the clothes. I hung them up in the clear, warm sunshine; and as I folded them later in the afternoon there was no trace of smoke on them. Trials come. Smoke stings your eyes and threatens your happiness, but it doesn’t last forever. The sun comes out, and it’s stronger then the smoke will ever be.

I don’t know who is trying to steal your joy today. Chances are someone is, but don’t let them succeed. It’s a new day, a fresh start and people can only steal your joy if you allow them to do so.

You can steal my photos but not my joy.

You can steal my photos but not my joy.

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Feeding my Soul

IMG_2564Laying in the sun—palm trees, a pristine pool, tropical flowers. It feels like a different country, almost a different world. The sun feels so rejuvenating and the cold that has refused to go away for the last three weeks has finally started to break up. There’s nothing like a break in the sun after months of working non-stop. Not that I mind. I love my life, the kids at the children’s home, the daily routines. But, with such an emotional job it’s healthy sometimes to get away; and Mombasa is the perfect place to recharge. The food is amazing (yay a break from ugali and beans). The weather is deliciously warm.

For the last three days I haven’t had anyone really need anything thing from me which feels so good after spending the majority of the last nine months constantly on call caring for 17 of the most wonderful kids in the world. Even though I love the kids I work with to death, it’s a physically and emotionally exhausting job. It’s nice to get away from all the pressure, expectations, and endless needs. I’m already feeling so refreshed after just three days, so I know I’ll be able to do a better job when I return.

Travel, new places, cultural, all feed my soul. There is something so incredible about getting to discover or rediscover a new place. Tuesday we spend the day exploring Mombasa’s Old Town. We bartered a price with a great guide who took us all over the city. We saw the spice market, hundred year old buildings, and even ducked our heads into the fish market where we saw everything from dried shark meat to live lobster.

I ate Swahili prawns for lunch fresh shrimp cooked in coconut sauce. It was heavenly. I’m glad I live in such a diverse world. Full of such beauty and flavor. Last night we sat out in the gazebo chatting with our neighbor and new friend from Germany. We talked about life, God, and the challenges and joys of working in ministry. I love those moments. I feel so alive, at peace, full of purpose, and happy in the presence of my creator. He has made such a beautiful world, and I love being able to enjoy different pieces of His work.

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Brown Paper Packages

Stockings

The stockings are hung on the windows. Popcorn chains wrap the tree. There’s a roll of brown paper just waiting to wrap the carefully sorted out presents. Christmas eve—the count down chain finally says one day remaining until Christmas. It’s finally here the day to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Apparently we are going to grill a goat and enjoy some nyama choma, that and lasagna to get a little taste of America at Christmas as well.

The kids are excited. They keep calling the homemade stockings socks and ask what goes inside of them. They are excited about the tree. When I came home last week from taking a day off the first thing George told me was, “our tree has torches that light up.” Good job Richelle for finding Christmas lights in Kenya. I didn’t have as much luck finding wrapping paper. The only paper I found was very shinny and had pink hearts all over it. Not very Christmasy, so we’ll have to do the brown paper packages tied up in strings look. But, no worries it’s Christmas and that is all that matters.

I love Christmas the music, the presents, the time together as a family everything just seems extra beautiful at Christmas. This will be my first Christmas away from my family, which will be hard, but I’m excited about spending my favorite holiday with my kids and the other volunteers here at the children’s home. It’s going to be a day of memories, laughter, and love. What more could you ask for on Christmas.

Some of the kids around the Christmas tree

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